How to Get Your Annual Fee Waived

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Million Mile Secrets reader Sandy writes:

The annual fees for my various American Express cards have just been posted to my accounts. I’m thinking of calling AMEX to get these fees waived. What strategies should I use when calling in?

Many banks waive the annual fee for the 1st year you have their card.  And after that, you could wind up paying $50 to $450 per card per year!

How To Get Your Annual Fee Waived

When You Have Lots of Credit Cards, the Annual Fees Can Really Add Up!

Sandy can try to get the annual fee waived by calling the bank.  But what if this doesn’t work?

Ask Nicely!

Call the number on the back of your card and mention you’d like to cancel your card because the annual fee is too high.  Being polite on this call can go a long way!

How To Get Your Annual Fee Waived

Sometimes All It Takes Is a Quick Phone Call

Being a good customer helps your cause.  So if you’ve used the cards frequently and paid your bills on time, the bank is more likely to want to keep your business!

You could mention that you’d like to keep the card because of the benefits, but compared to other similar cards it’s hard to justify paying the annual fee.

They May Offer a Bonus Instead

If they bank won’t waive the annual fee they may offer you a statement credit or bonus points to cover a portion of the fee.

For example, some folks have been offered 5,000 AMEX Membership Rewards points and another 15,000 points after they spend $3,000 within 3 months in exchange for keeping the AMEX Premier Rewards Gold.

The annual fee on this card is $175 $195 and 20,000 points are worth at least $200.  So this bonus makes it more than worth keeping the card!

How To Get Your Annual Fee Waived

Sometimes the Bonus Is Worth More Than Just Waiving the Annual Fee

Do the math when you receive an offer to determine if it’s a good deal!  You can also check Flyertalk to find out how your offer compares to what other folks have received from banks such as:

Hang Up & Call Again

If you don’t get an offer you like, can say you’d like to think it over.  Then hang up and call back to get another agent who may be willing to give you a better offer.

Before You Cancel!

If the bank won’t waive your annual fee or offer a bonus to keep your business, follow these tips before canceling your card.

1.   Don’t Make the Bank Angry!

Be sure you’ve taken the time to evaluate the card.  I usually recommend folks hang onto a card for 9 to 10 months and then decide if it’s worth the annual fee.  That’s because banks don’t like it when you sign-up for cards just to earn the bonus and then cancel right away.

They give out these incentives because they want you to try the card!

How To Get Your Annual Fee Waived

If The Bank Gets Upset, They May Not Approve Your Card Applications in the Future!

2.   Don’t Lose Your Points!

Bank point cards like The Platinum Card from American Express will take away your points when you cancel.  You can avoid this by transferring your points to airline and hotel partners before you cancel!

How To Get Your Annual Fee Waived

Make Sure Your Points Are Safe Before Closing Your Account

Find out if you’ll lose your points when you cancel your card.

3.   Consider Switching to a No Annual Fee Card

Canceling a card could impact your credit score.  That’s because:

  •  Your credit utilization ratio (ratio of amount you owe to the total credit available to you) could increase once you cancel a card.  This accounts for 30% of your credit score.  However, the ratio can go back down when you apply for a new card.
  • Your credit history (15% of your credit score) could decrease over the long term. Though this impact can be minimized by opening new accounts to replace them.  This is more of a concern for folks who are fairly new to credit cards.

So an alternative to closing your account, is switching to a no annual fee card without a sign-up bonus like:

Note:  Usually when you switch to a new card (instead of applying) you will not be offered a sign-up bonus.

You never have to cancel a no-annual-fee card.  And that helps you build a relationship with the bank and build a longer credit history!

Remember, when you close a card, you may be able to earn the sign-up bonus on it again in the future.

Bottom Line

If you’re like Sandy and you don’t want to pay the annual fee on a credit card, you can try calling the bank and asking nicely!  They may waive the annual fee or offer you a bonus to keep you as a customer!

If you don’t like the offer you get, you can try hanging up, calling back, and speaking with another agent.

But you may decide you still want to cancel your card.  Before you close your account, be sure you won’t lose your points.

And ask if the bank can switch you to a card that has NO annual fee.  But be sure that card does NOT offer a sign-up bonus to new applicants because you won’t be eligible.

Keep in mind, if you close your account, some cards will let you get the sign-up bonus again!

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29 responses to “How to Get Your Annual Fee Waived

  1. martin gingell

    I have the 3 cards AA offers amex ,visa and mc. when I call to cancel they invariably transfer me to the guy who tries to talk me out of cancelling the card . My tactic is the same I agree not to cancel the card if they waive the fee AND give me an additional 7,500 miles per month for 6 months. In return I agree to spend over $ 1000 on the card each month during that first 6 month period . This isn’t as difficult as it sounds as they are spaced 4 months apart .
    This always worked until recently. Unfortunately now they just waive the fee automatically every time it is due on all 3 cards. Maybe it is time to just start cancelling them one every 6 months and re-apply when it has been a year on each one. Thanks for this and all you do , I have forgotten what cash is , and am closing in on half a million AA miles in my account. All due to finding this awesome site years ago . chapeau to you both.

  2. This absolutely works and it works more than once. Each year for the past three years I have called Barclay Us Air card to cancel when the annual fee comes up and each year customer service has given me bonus incentives to stay with them at NO annual fee. I’m not sure why they do that because in most of those years I have not consistently used their card. But I appreciate it, use the card to get the bonus points and go back to using other cards for other reasons.

  3. Have the Amex platinum at $450 AF/year. After the $200 airline incidental credits its effectively $250. I called to cancel the card and they tried to downgrade me to the gold card. After I said I love the benefits, he said he could give me $10,000 MR’s worth $100. I can understand they won’t waive the full $450 but an extra $100 is generous and makes the card only $150 for this next year.

  4. Hello Darius:

    Thanks for the great & very informative website.
    I have a dilemma and I would like to get your advice. I signed up for the Capital One Venture Reward card. When submitting my application, the system was not responding for several minutes. Hence I submitted the form again. So essentially they processed two separate card applications from me and I got accepted for two Capital One Venture cards with $30,000.00 credit limit each.

    I realize that I will be eligible for the rewards (40,000 miles) only on one of the cards. So I am thinking of canceling one card.
    Before I cancel, I thought I should ask you if there is any upside in keeping both cards?
    Thank you,

  5. Thanks for the reminder that you can often get the annual fee waived. I always forget about this. I just cancelled a couple cards and I should have thought to go for the getting the AF waived.

    Great to hear stories of people also getting bonuses in addition to getting the annual fee waived — gives me something higher to shoot for! : )

  6. Chris,
    From what I understand, if you are approved two Capone venture cards, you would get the bonus due on each card separately. Correct me if I am wrong Darius.! Congratulations again! enjoy the benefits!

  7. What happens if you downgrade an ink plus to an ink cash, will you be able to get the signup bonus for the ink plus again (if its been over 2 yrs)?

  8. “Being a good customer helps your cause. So if you’ve used the cards frequently and paid your bills on time, the bank is more likely to want to keep your business!”

    This is what I do – I always pay my bills in full and on-time; but I though banks would actually prefer me to miss payments so they could charge me some outrages fees. So am I good customer paying always on time?

  9. A couple of additional suggestions:

    -Don’t start by saying you want to cancel the card – instead, say you’re considering cancelling the card because you don’t want to pay the annual fee. That gives you more flexibility to “roll with the punches”.

    -It sometimes helps to ask to speak with a “retention specialist”. They’re specifically trained to deal with this type of situation, so can save you time and aggravation.

  10. Most of the time, I don’t think it’s even worth it to keep the cards open with the fee waived or with a retention offer. For cards that you can’t get another bonus on (ie. AmEx personal cards now) it would be worth it, but for others I’d prefer to cancel and start that 12 or 24 month period to where I can reapply for the big bonus.

    Of course, if I really love the card I just pay the fee (Club Carlson comes to mind…).

  11. Arlington Traveler

    A couple of observations:

    1) downgrading to a card with no signup bonus is a no brainer and
    a) Chase Sapphire Preferred cardholders will sometimes be offered a downgrade to a Chase Sapphire which is no longer offered to new applicants hence no signup bonus
    b) Citi Amex cardholders will sometimes be offered a downgrade to the Citi Double Cash card which (currently) offers no sign up bonus
    2) They do track your usage, so if you got the bonus and put it in your sock drawer, the first time you may get an incentive but in subsequent years they catch on. Banks put a value on you, and if your not using the card, your not generating any revenue for them.
    3) Paying the annual fee every couple of years, ensures in my experience a fee waiver in the subsequent years except for the cards that normally don’t offer an incentive (Chase Sapphire Preferred) or a modest incentive (most hotel cobranded cards which include a free night)
    4) Remember, Amex doesn’t allow you to get another sign-up bonus FOR LIFE, so think long and hard before cancelling an Amex card you like as if you apply again, no sign-up bonus for you

  12. Hi Darius,

    if you get the annual fee waived, would you lose the free certificate night with the hotel credit card?

  13. Did not work w the AA Citi executive card. $450 AF was coming due so I called in and said Im considering cancelling, and his response was “sorry to hear that, it’s cancelled now, would you like a confirmation email?” I was shocked! Took all of 2 seconds. No offers or attempt to keep my business.

  14. I feel like these bloggers just post resource for us to read hoping we click on their affiliate links, but when we ask questions, they are all ignored. How can we support your blog if the author doesn’t come back to reply the comments/questions?

  15. I have never paid a single cent for a credit card’s annual fee. I am extremely satisfied with at least two of my credit cards — Citibank Dividend and HSBC premier. I get around $100 cash back every two months from Citi, and I don’t get any foreign transaction fees when I use my HSBC anywhere in the world. I will never get a credit card that charges annual fees.

  16. Hey Lee, Why would lose your night, your keeping the card, stop whining go to flyer talk and ask your questions then come back and sign up for cards through Darius’ link, why not ,the guys adding value to a community, what are you doing? That’s not a flame, simply a question, What Are You adding? Oh, and Joost, nobody cares! Buck up and get a mans’ card or womans’ card with a fee, and pay a couple annuals.

  17. If i first apply for an Amex platinum and then close my Amex gold after activating my platinum card, will i get to keep my MR from the gold card ? Or will they take away any MRs that were earned through the bonus/ spending on gold card ?

  18. I recently tried this. I asked the agent to cancel my card because the annual fee was too high, her next response was okay do i have your permission to close the account? I had to tell her “well don’t close it yet i need to check something else blah blah” my account has never been late, have pretty good turnover on the card always paid in full. I thought for sure they would waive the annual fee or offer bonus miles or something, but nothing just ok we’ll cancel it.

  19. Tried to get fee waived on chase ink card today. Spoke to two agents. Both said nothing could be done until the fee had ALREADY posted to my account. This seems contrary to what everyone is saying on frequent flyer sites. What is going on?

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  22. I have been a Chase card holder for several years. I currently hold a Sapphire Preferred and a United Explorer.
    Each year I call to speak with their non existent retention department…also called Loyalty department.
    And each year I am read a script that informs me just how fortunate I am to have their benefit rich cards.
    Speaking to a supervisor this last time was an exercise in frustration. This man was none too happy to close my accounts explaining that this is a business and he couldn’t waive or credit the $200 in fees these 2 cards carry.
    I explained that Citi is very accommodating and creative when it comes to keeping its customers satisfied.
    I am very happy w/ the way I am treated as a consumer at Citi and I’ve been with them for far less time.
    Chase is not consumer friendly…it clearly comes down to $$$ with them. Too bad they can’t understand that people share their experiences and if enough people walk then it will have an affect on their precious bottom line.
    I’ll be leaving Chase because of this.

  23. I had my accounts with Deutsche Bank Alex Brown and Raymond James recently bought them out. I saw that RJ has a premier AMEX card (run by Elan Financial) and so I applied for a card for my wife and myself (each). The annual fee is $350 per card. Because of the size of my investment accounts, Raymond James said that they would refund the annual fees charged by Elan, but that going forward they would not be able to waive this because of recent legislation (within the last several months) that prevent banks from doing this.

    Can someone help me verify this?

  24. I just called my Delta Gold AMEX card to get the $95 fee waived. I’ve had the card for 10 months as of today, no late payments, and I’ve been on 12 delta flight segments this year. The representative offered $50 in the form of a credit OR 1k miles plus 2k miles if I spend $1k in the next 3 months on the card. I accepted the $50.

    I used the following language: “I do really like the card, I just can’t justify the fee when I have other no-fee cards that offer very similar benefits”.

  25. Just tried to get AMEX to see the light, but they refused and offered me a No Fee card. I told them fine and so began the stupidity from them. They started grilling me on my business, FED ID #, annual revenues, etc. When I had enough, I just told them to flat out cancel everything.
    I have been a member since 1988 and they have my credit history first hand.
    Just plain stupid. See ya Amex I have other credit sources that will not charge me annual fees, nor put me through this inquisition.

  26. Tried this with Chase as my United Explorer card $95 AF posted to my account.
    First time they speeled about the benefits of the card – no offer.
    Second time they still offered nothing, having checked my account but said I could pay for fee with miles if I wanted instead. They want 11,875 miles or so.

    Undecided to keep card. We don’t fly yearly to justify it but when we do the perks are nice (free checked bag/priority boarding) but lounge wasn’t that great for us, and we could travel light with carry on if needed.

    Always paid on time and had the card for 1 year so far. Also have the Chase Sapphire which has annual fees too.

  27. I just tried 3 different times to get American Express to waive my annual $95 fee on a Delta Gold card. They really wanted to but said they could not. They suggested their no fee card but they could not switch me. I would have to apply. I have gotten used to seeing that zero in the credit inquires category on my credit record and I like it. Delta does not fly out of my airport so the miles are useless to me. So, I ended up canceling the card.

    • Yeah the ruse is up on this one — just tried calling 3 times for my Delta Gold Card and they also said to go pound sand. I did this the past ~4 years and it worked fine (often got it waived or got miles instead), but I think they’ve caught on to the fact that people have asked for this in the past and know that if they just say “no” that you’re likely not going to do anything anyways.

  28. Chase was completely inflexible on this when I asked them to waive the fee on my MileagePlus card. I have a credit score over 750 and have paid the balance every month. They are now going to make me wait up to two months to have the fee refunded. There are a lot of other travel credit cards out there, so I have no issue walking away from Chase.